This story could have had a very different ending — a tragic ending.
But thanks to a simple device, a federal grant and the work of local firefighters, a family of three will live to celebrate Christmas.
Just after 9 a.m. Saturday, firefighters got the call from a family in the 500 block of West Bridle Path Lane. A newly installed carbon monoxide/smoke alarm in the family’s home was squawking something about a fire, but the puzzled family didn’t see any smoke. Then the alarm started shouting something about carbon monoxide — an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas.
They filed outside and waited for firefighters. When crews arrived and entered the home, their portable carbon monoxide detector immediately lit up.
It was no false alarm.
Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Another 20,000 visit the emergency room, 4,000 of which end up hospitalized because of the gas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On this cold Saturday morning, a mother and her adult son and daughter learned from firefighters that the motor in a gas furnace in their garage had seized up.
The fan had continued to turn though, burning and getting hotter and hotter. As the electrical wires and components decomposed, they released carbon monoxide into the home. It didn’t matter that it was a gas furnace.
Almost miraculously, just a few weeks earlier Payson firefighters had installed a carbon monoxide detector in the family’s home.
The detector was one of dozens the PFD received as part of a $32,000 federal grant earlier this year, for which then-fire marshal Bob Lockhart applied.
The town qualified for the grant, which provided funds for smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, after showing an increased risk of carbon monoxide-related injuries, property loss and death. Starting in March, firefighters went door-to-door in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods to offer installation of free alarms.
Based on town records, firefighters estimated that upwards of 65 percent of homes visited would need a new smoke detector, 10 percent a visual smoke detector and 95 percent a carbon monoxide alarm.
Firefighters say had the family not had the alarm, they likely would have never known carbon monoxide was filling their home.
“Three lives were likely saved because of that alarm,” said one Payson firefighter who worked the call. “It is very cool to know one of these units saved lives.”
Firefighters checked the family for carbon monoxide poisoning, but they were fine.
Several smoke/carbon monoxide alarms are still available through the PFD. The alarms are free and they’re no requirements to receive an alarm.
Call the PFD at (928) 474-5242 x300 to schedule the installation of an alarm.